My camera is irreparable so they've sent me a new one. And it's not just a new camera it's a different model. My old camera is not only bust but extinct.
The first camera I ever used (the first proper camera) was a Canon. I'd hit on the idea that I'd like to hold a photographic exhibition about life in a factory so I phoned an arts organisation and asked if I could borrow a camera. They were very enthusiastic and lent me a good one. They were very trusting. And I was very . . . very . . ambitious would you say?
I couldn't afford to do a course in how to develop the film or print in black and white so I agreed with a friend that she'd take the course and show me what she'd learned. The plan worked. While a large group of students beavered away in the teaching lab. I caught up with their last week's lessons in the little lab. next door. Even better, the teacher found out what I was doing and while the large class worked through their latest exercise he'd come through to see how I was getting on. And he'd stop awhile to talk about photography until he reckoned they'd had enough time to complete their task.
Next I had to work out how to take good pictures of people while they were at work. Wandering around a factory floor would already be distracting and using a flash would compound the problem. So a friend's daughter (who happened to be a professional landscape photographer) showed me how to up-rate the film (now we're all digital there's no particular reason to explain what this means - except I could take crisp pictures in a low light even when people were moving) . . . she then got the film developed at a professional developers and helped me evening after evening after evening to print my pictures huge enough to display. Then I had my exhibition.
Talk about a grand beginning!
After that, I had to save to buy my own cameras and the challenge has been that I can't decide on a subject and style then buy a camera to match - I have to have to adapt what I photograph according to what the kind of camera I can afford to buy can do. (And where I live, of course.) Which is why I landed up taking pictures of leaves instead of factories. I suppose my addiction is to seeing and as long as I'm seeing something interesting it doesn't matter too much what it is. That isn't exactly, exactly true but it's near enough.
And being of modest means, I've always had to put a lot of work into researching before purchasing. Now I was being sent 'an unknown' so a stage was missing - and I didn't like it. Something emotional had gone adrift. An email gave a tracking code so I followed the progress of the parcel from Watford to Barking. (Barking?!) And from Barking to Southampton. (Southampton!?) And eventually, having had its own little holiday wandering around the south of England, it arrived. It should have been a moment of joy but I couldn't bring myself to open the box. It sat there and sat there until in the end I pulled back the tape and took out the camera and fiddled around with it a bit . . . then ranted crossly around the house because, I reckoned, it was rubbish. I didn't like it. It was almost unbearable. It was this or nothing - and I didn't like the 'this'.
As forbearing readers will know, my glasses broke around the same time as my camera.
I waltzed in.
Any problems with my eyes?
No. Just that I needed new glasses.
But there was no significant change in the prescription.
I have the beginning of cataracts.
"Oh?" I said airily, treating this as a matter of general interest rather than immediate concern, not yet registering the reason I can't see properly isn't because I need new glasses but that my vision is itself already a bit blurred. I asked how long it takes for cataracts to get really bad. Eight years? said the optician. Or twenty? Can't tell. But however long it takes there's nothing that can be done about it. Just one of those things everyone knows but no-one understands.
The next thing I did was to buy a really good cup of coffee and a specially delicious caramel shortbread with real chocolate on top. (Whoever invented cooking chocolate was a fool.)
And now I'm falling in love with my camera . . . and getting obsessed with focus. Knowing what a picture really looks like is a bit awkward with a laptop. The angle of the screen, the brightness, whether it's my laptop or yours . . so many variables. So now I angle my head from side to side and wonder what the picture really looks like. I don't want to exaggerate . . . but I can't really tell . . . if I look at the screen sideways from the right . . is that how you will see the veins in the leaves best too? Just about? Or from the left? And the patches missing? I'd been thinking I had mild-migraine vision. Who wouldn't have a migraine if their phone, their glasses and their camera all broke at once? But I suppose it isn't a migraine. My eyes are simply getting fed up with bright lights.
It's interesting how a little bit of information changes the way one sees the world - literally.
Once I'd digested the caramel shortbread . . and resisted the temptation to go back for more the next day . . I began thinking about what that 'eight years' or 'twenty years' will bring. If my sight will slowly but inevitably go fuzzy, what do I want most to see? What do I most want to do with my camera? Which is more important - the line of the horizon or a grain of pollen? It's too easy to say 'everything' or 'both' because I'm a bit of a specialist. I like to know where my focus lies. (Focus. Ha!) And I want to get the most out of my camera while there's a point in having one. So how I set it up . . . and how I use it . . . becomes a bit philosophical. I'm struggling a bit. I'm asking myself what right do I have to see? Not everyone can. Not everyone has a camera.
The thing about this new camera (now I've stopped running up and down saying it's rubbish - which it isn't) is that it's easier to set the focus in odd places . . . and although I haven't (yet?) managed to get it to take pictures of pollen or anything with specially impressive close-up detail, it's easier now to play with depth of field as well as centre of interest. So I pottered out this afternoon and messed around with random pictures of Alexanders. One can get used to everything in the end. I think. No. I don't think that. Not everything. But I'm getting used to my camera and already it's my friend.